by Brittany Rotondo
Kenn Kweder. A name that still sends shivers down the spines and streets of Philadelphia. Some dubbed him the mayor of South Street, but to most, he was and always will be, The Messiah.
Sixty-one-year-old Kweder ventured from Southwest Philadelphia, wanting to be a professional basketball player. The universe surely had different plans in store. With 23 bands and 18 albums, EP’s and vinyl records under his belt, Kweder has been hailed by Rolling Stone’s David Fricke as, “A madcap take on 60’s Dylan with a garage punk crunch.” His local hero status was just beginning to rise. Starting in the early 70’s Kweder quit his government job to pursue music. In his own words, he was “Tired of taking fucking orders.” And that statement alone can sum up Kweder and the beautiful anarchy sure to come in the next few decades.
Beginning with the Secret Kidds, and later the Men From Wawa (among many other formations) Kweder singlehandedly created a scene that still thrives to this day. The songsmith had a vision that he wasn’t going to alter. Not for Clive Davis. Not for Arista records. And seemingly, not for himself. The local phenom’s infamous antics and stage presence grew rapidly. As did his songwriting. You can still hear tunes like “Jack Kerouac”, “Heroin” and “The Ballad of Manute Bol” played religiously five out of seven nights of the week.
Now, I could regale you with stories like the time he got arrested and charged with criminal mischief for defacing City Hall with posters of himself- after thousands lay strewn upon the walls, streets and any surface imaginable, in Philadelphia. Or, I could tell you how after a long night of partying and preaching Kwederism, he woke up from sleeping in the back of a police cruiser. But that’s not what this story is about. This is about the circus and circumstances of a man wrapped in riddle.
So it comes to no surprise that 23-year-old Jon Hutlemyer and creative partner, Rob Nicolaides, decided to embark on the laborious journey of filming a documentary about the elusive Kenn Kweder. “Everything about Kenn screams story. He’s the perfect subject.” says Hutlemyer. After going through his father’s record collection, Hutlemyer stumbled across one of Kweder’s Greatest Hits Albums and became instantly hooked. “Even then I knew there was a story to be told. This will be the full-fledged documentary he deserves.” To raise funds, the Dog Byte Digital team has created a flexible fundraising campaign with IndieGoGo. The ultimate goal is to reach 25K in just 40 days. Some perks and prizes for your contribution range from DVDs, posters, and even credits in the film.
When asked what he hoped to come out of this documentary, Kweder pauses in a moment of contemplation. “If you’re a painting on canvas, the desire is the artist. Not the painting.” The many shades and colors of Kweder alone are that of a poet, a madman, an eccentric. And always, The Messiah.